Jane Shaw is the IT Manager at Progressive Insurance. Projects haven’t slowed down, so Progressive is still hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic – in fact, Jane just made offers to three Tech Elevator graduates last week! We caught up with Jane to find out how Progressive has adjusted their hiring process, what tools they’re using to facilitate a 100% remote team, and what positions bootcamp grads can expect to land at a company like Progressive. Plus, Jane shares her advice for standing out in an online interview!
Jane, what are you working on at Progressive?
I am an IT Manager at Progressive and the Program Manager for Progressive’s IT Interns and Associate Hire Program for the application development side of our organization. This year I'm hiring almost 60 full-time employees and I have 27 Interns lined up to start in a few weeks.
What types of roles would a Tech Elevator graduate go into when they are a new hire?
Bootcamp grads can expect to be hired for positions like Developer, System Tech Engineer, and IT Systems Analyst.
When we spoke in 2016, Progressive had hired 8 Tech Elevator Graduates. How has that evolved in the last few years?
My relationships with bootcamps have grown considerably! I have hired a total of 50 bootcamp graduates since I started hiring bootcamp graduates in 2016. Three of those hires we made offers to last week and will be joining us on May 11, 2020.
I've kept track of how quickly our bootcamp and college hires are being promoted. The bootcamp graduates’ career trajectory is moving at the same rate as someone who came out of college with a 4-year CS degree. The retention of our bootcamp hires is excellent. They are solid contributors to our IT projects and to Progressive as a whole. At first, when I was bringing bootcamp hires in, people were apprehensive. Now, I think one of the biggest benefits to hiring bootcamp graduates is the fact that I don't have to wait until May when college students graduate. If I need to hire Associates in February, I can go to Tech Elevator any time their next class is graduating.
A lot of companies have frozen their hiring during the pandemic. Is Progressive still hiring?
When the pandemic first impacted us and we knew that we were all moving to a remote situation, one of the first decisions that we made was to honor all of the offers that we had already made. Since then, I have hired five people to associate level roles. We are also hiring intermediate, senior, and consultant level IT professionals. We haven't put the brakes on hiring because we still have a lot of project work that needs to be done. A lot of my interns and full-timers that I have starting over the summer are college students that we had made offers to months ago.
What changes has Progressive made to your hiring strategy in response to COVID-19?
All of our teams are working remotely now. That means that all of our hiring processes and onboarding processes are being done remotely as well. We are using WebEx for interviewing so that we can have face to face interactions with the candidates.
We're all adapting to the new normal and figuring out ways to remain productive in the remote environment. We're working to figure out how to make sure that our Interns and new Associates have a great onboarding experience and that they acclimate well to the project teams and our culture at Progressive.
What’s been your biggest key to success in making the transition to fully remote work?
We already have great flexible work arrangements at Progressive. Typically that means that I'm in the office three or four days a week and I work remotely two days a week. Progressive actually has two locations – in Cleveland, OH and in Colorado Springs. We were working day to day next to each other in Cleveland and also virtually with the folks out in Colorado Springs. Moving into this remote situation has been easier because the relationships were developed and built ahead of time.
The tools that we have in place have also been a great help. We already had great collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and WebX that allowed us to work with our IT folks in Colorado Springs. We're used to using these collaboration tools to effectively get our project work done.
How are in-person interviews different from online interviews?
As far as the actual interview, sitting down with your interviewer and working through the questions hasn't changed aside from it being over Webex.
What are you looking for in a new remote employee at Progressive?
I look for the same things that I would look for in someone who was coming onsite. One of the most important things is flexibility and soft skills. We can teach you the technology but if you have great communication skills, good team skills, innovation, creativity, and a passion for technology you'll make a good employee both remote and onsite.
For the interns and Tech Elevator grads, we'll be setting expectations right out of the gate because a lot of them may not have worked remotely before. We expect them to have their camera on when they're in a team meeting and that they're available on MS Teams so that their teammates can easily communicate.
How can a bootcamp graduate stand out in an online interview?
Progressive asks behavior-based interview questions. When we interview a graduate from an immersive coding bootcamp like Tech Elevator, we know that student has successfully gotten through school so I figure they have a good technical base because I know what the Tech Elevator curriculum covers. I know that bootcamp graduates usually have extensive experience in other business areas. I've interviewed folks that have played for the St. Louis Symphony, people who have law degrees, people who have worked in offices before. When we ask these behavioral-based questions, many interviewees tap into their previous experiences to answer these questions.
That’s good, but we also want to hear technical examples in some of those answers. I understand that you may not be able to provide me with a technical response about some huge projects that you designed or architected. But talking about your final bootcamp projects gives me an opportunity to gauge your passion for technology in hearing you talk about it. Weave your passion for technology into some of your answers.
As a hiring partner, how did you participate in Tech Elevator’s hiring process remotely?
Tech Elevator offers a matchmaking process, so we set that up virtually with Webex. I also do an employer showcase for every cohort at Tech Elevator. I show slides and videos of Progressive and I talk about what we do. Three days before I was supposed to do my most recent showcase, everybody went on lockdown. Tech Elevator was able to set that employer showcase up remotely. And 18 people from that Tech Elevator cohort were interested in Progressive.
What are your favorite remote work tools?
We use Microsoft Teams, Skype, and a few other collaboration tools. We've arranged virtual happy hours, hosted a game of Pictionary through MS Teams, and created internal websites where people can post pictures of their "new coworkers." We’re posting pictures of our new work stations and providing tips and tricks on how to deal with the stress of our current situation. And of course, posting recipes – my favorite is “The Quarantini.”
My team did a virtual tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and had a great time talking about the animals we saw. Next week we're going to do a virtual museum tour.
What does the remote onboarding process at Progressive look like?
I'm planning to do the same onboarding experience as I would have if they were in the office but remotely instead. We do have to tweak a few things for sure. But overall, the only difference is that they won't physically be here. Typically, we bring our interns here and house them so that they get to experience the city because not all of our interns are from Cleveland. Because we're making this summer's internship remote, they won't get to experience that. For our incoming interns, we're looking to set up some virtual tours of things that are in Cleveland. For example, we're going to try to get a virtual tour of the Rock Hall of Fame and some other great spaces we have here in Cleveland.
The first few days, they're going to be spending a lot of time learning about Progressive. I orchestrate a scavenger hunt where they have to do research inside our internal systems to find information and report back what they've found.
Do you have any advice for folks who are on the job search right now?
If you are looking for a job in IT, you're lucky. The IT jobs are still out there! Get on LinkedIn. Some companies are unable to hire right now due to the situation, however there are a lot of companies, like Progressive that continue to look for great talent. Right now you may want to look at larger companies that have not been impacted by the current pandemic.
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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